20 over-the-top Christmas displays from across America
20 over-the-top Christmas displays from across America
As soon as the final slice of Thanksgiving turkey is carved, it seems radio stations start playing Christmas music around the clock and twinkly lights appear on houses. In fact, some hardcore holiday lovers start decorating and decking the halls for the festive season as soon as Halloween ends—if not even earlier.
There’s something impressive about homeowners who go all out with light shows set to music and larger-than-life, winter-themed inflatables. To celebrate these holiday lovers who want their decorations to rival the North Pole, Stacker scoured the internet to find photos of 20 of the most incredible Christmas displays in the United States. Some are neighborhoods that band together to put on a blocks-long show in December, while others are holiday-themed landmarks that keep their festive spirit going year-round. Admirers can visit some of the displays on this list for free, just by driving or walking through the neighborhood, while others are ticketed attractions.
Each of the Christmas displays on this list puts its own spin on the holiday season. From an oversized tree made entirely out of skis to a holiday light tour that focuses on displays that are intentionally tacky, each landmark on this list takes an altogether different approach. Read on to discover states that boast one of these incredibly elaborate light displays and get inspiration for Christmas decorating.
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Santa Claus House in the North Pole, Alaska
Alaskan merchant Con Miller used to dress up as Santa Claus for the local kids every Christmas; so when he and his wife decided to open a trading post in the North Pole, Alaska, in 1952, naming it Santa Claus House was a no brainer. Inside the red-and-white building, visitors can buy Christmas decorations year-round, sample fudge and other treats at The Sweet Shop, and order official letters from Santa. Visitors will find the world’s largest Santa Claus statue, an authentic sleigh, and even pet some of Santa’s reindeer.
Anthem Outlets in Anthem, Arizona
Every year, visitors will find Arizona’s tallest Christmas tree at the Anthem Outlets shopping mall in Anthem, Arizona. This year marks the 20th annual celebration, and visitors can also take in a stunning light show after the free official tree lighting.
Candy Cane Lane in Woodland Hills, California
The intersection of Lubao Avenue and Oxnard Street in the Southern California community of Woodland Hills has become known as Candy Cane Lane, thanks to the residents’ propensity for staging elaborate Christmas displays every winter. Past displays have included allusions to “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Peanuts,” and even “Star Wars.” Just drive through the neighborhood to take in the holiday magic.
Telluride's Ski Tree in Telluride, Colorado
Like many cities across the country, Telluride, Colorado, decorates a huge Christmas tree right in the center of town. The big difference? This tree is made entirely out of skis. A local artist welded metal skis together to form the branches, and the many-pointed star at the top is made from ski poles. Any visitor to Telluride can see the ski tree in all its glory.
St. Augustine Night of Lights in St. Augustine, Florida
The nation’s oldest city shows off its Spanish Colonial architecture to a spectacular degree during the St. Augustine Night of Lights, when it seems like every building in town is lit with twinkly lights. Visitors can walk around St. Augustine Night of Lights for free. For an even more breathtaking view, visitors can book a boat tour to see the sparkling display from the water.
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Waikele Christmas Lights in Waikele, Hawaii
Multiple families join forces to pull off this multi-home, synchronized light show in Waikele, Hawaii. The Waikele Christmas Lights are so famous that the display was even a contender on ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Show.” In 2021, Waikele Christmas Lights was put on hold due to COVID-19, but they plan to come back bigger and better in 2022.
Larsen's Christmas Lights Show in Campton Hills, Illinois
The Larsen family runs this free light display set to music every holiday season. The display has included as many as 1 million lights. Just tune the radio to 88.5 FM to hear the festive music that accompanies the display from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and until 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
Gardens Aglow in Boothbay, Maine
With more than 650,000 lights, Gardens Aglow in Boothbay, Maine, is New England’s brightest and biggest holiday light display. The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens are transformed into a mesmerizing, twinkling spectacle for the festive season. Tickets run from $30 per vehicle for botanical gardens members to $40 for nonmembers.
Lights under Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky
During the holiday season, the Louisville Mega Cavern—a former limestone quarry turned tourist attraction—becomes the home to a jaw-dropping Christmas display called Lights Under Louisville. Visitors can drive their vehicles through this 17-mile display of more than 850 lit characters and 3,000,000 points of light for $33 per car.
Baltimore's 34th Street in Baltimore, Maryland
Neighbors on 34th Street in Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood have been decking out their homes in Christmas lights for more than 30 years. Decorations range from traditional angels, Santas, and candy canes to uniquely Baltimore additions like crabs made out of red twinkling lights, Orioles and Ravens decor, and even a Christmas tree made out of hubcaps. Anyone who wants to take in the festive street can walk by for free.
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Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri
This Missouri theme park goes all out during the holidays. Attractions include breakfast with Santa, a living nativity scene, and holiday-themed plays, but the most popular by far is the incredible light display. Silver Dollar City boasts more than 6.5 million lights—including a state-of-the-art, eight-story Christmas tree—and anyone who visits the park during the holiday season can soak up the holiday magic.
Glittering Lights in Las Vegas, Nevada
Celebrating its 21st year in 2021, this holiday drive-through light show on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway features more than 3 million LED lights. A weekday ticket will cost $25 per car, and visitors will have to shell out an extra $10 to visit on weekends or holidays. Glittering Lights donates a portion of every ticket sale to Speedway Children’s Charities.
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights in Brooklyn, New York
Residents of this Brooklyn neighborhood decorate their houses in over-the-top light displays and life-size characters every holiday season. Decorations usually go up the weekend after Thanksgiving, and anyone can view them by walking between 11th and 13th Avenues and 83rd and 86th Streets.
Clifton Mill in Clifton, Ohio
This Ohio grist mill dating back to the 1800s gets a Christmassy makeover every winter when more than 4 million lights go up on the covered bridge. The display takes six workers about three months to build every year, and visitors can take in the stunning light show set to music every night between Thanksgiving and Dec. 30 for $10 per guest age 4 and older.
Rhema Lights in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
Since 1982, Rhema Bible Church has been putting on this beloved Christmas light show. Admission to see the 2 million light display and Christmas tree forest is free, but visitors who don’t want to go on foot can choose to pay for an open-top carriage ride through the park.
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Peacock Lane in Portland, Oregon
This Portland, Oregon, neighborhood is filled with quaint Tudor homes, and it has been decorating for Christmas as a group since 1932. Visitors can check out the festive decor every night from Dec. 15 to Dec. 31 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Occasionally, the street closes to car traffic so pedestrians can wander on foot, sipping hot cocoa and cider all the while.
The Miracle on South 13th Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
One block of South 13th Street in South Philadelphia typically contains more Christmas lights than entire neighborhoods during the holiday season. Walk between Tasker and Morris Streets to take in this free spectacle.
Austin Trail of Lights in Austin, Texas
With more than 60 displays and 2 million lights, this annual event in Zilker Park draws visitors from all over Texas. Revelers can also buy snacks from local food trucks, watch holiday movies, and even participate in a yearly fun run through the park. Though you can usually enter the park for free, the organizers of the 2021 Austin Trail of Lights are managing crowds by having guests purchase tickets, starting at $30 per car, from 5:45 p.m. until 10 p.m. nightly.
Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah
Starting the day after Thanksgiving, Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, becomes decked out with a plethora of Christmas displays. Typically, anyone can take in the life-size nativity scene, the Cedar of Lebanon covered in red LED lights, and even catch live performances from local bands, but 2021 plans have been altered slightly due to the pandemic.
Tacky Lights Tour in Richmond, Virginia
The Richmond Times-Dispatch always puts together a list of the best over-the-top Christmas lights in town so readers can create self-guided tours. Perennial favorites include a home with a live Grinch and a Christmas fantasyland full of handmade cutouts of holiday characters like Rudolph and Santa.
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